Hitting Flaw-Opening the front shoulder early

Spring season softball is finally underway and a lot of hitters are anxious to get going after hitting thousands of balls during the winter months.  The most common hitting flaw that I see early is the lead shoulder flying open. In most cases, it’s a timing issue but let’s first check out the mechanics to see if a flaw or flaws are a contributor. Most coaches just say to the hitter let the ball get deeper before initiating the swing. In most cases that is a true a statement but let’s take a closer look. We need to work from the bottom up.  Check the stride, the stride is the culprit for many mechanical flaws.  As the hitter strides are they shifting their weight forward?  Are they moving their hands forward?  If so, the only option the hitter has is to fly their shoulder out to swing the bat. If the hitter is not doing these things, then check for hip drag. Is the hip leading the swing? If is not, then we have hip drag (hip behind the shoulders).  Lastly, if the hitters stride is not the problem and the hips are a head of the shoulders, check the top and bottom hands. If the bottom hand is dominating the top hand, this may cause the shoulder to open early and in many cases cause the bat head to become unstable.  If this is the case, top hand tee work is needed to correct this issue.  If none of these bad mechanics are observed it’s the eyes. An eye issue is a timing issue.  I would recommend live BP, front toss and a pitching machine with three home plates, the first plate at 35 feet, the second plate at 40 feet and the last plate 43 feet. After each pitch, have the hitter move to a different plate that way they will have to trust their eyes.

Basics of Pitching-101

 I am not a pitching instructor. I am an observer of pitching mechanics and father of two successful pitchers. My oldest pitches for Texas A&M Int. Most of their instruction came from me. They did have pitching lessons with other instructors off and on. Any father that catches with their daughter knows that eventually it gets to point where you cannot see the flaws and still focus on catching the ball.  I took a pitch or two off of my body while trying to look at the entire motion start to finish.  I do recommend every pitcher to get a qualified pitching instructor for weekly lessons but you must also train on your own. Every pitching instructor should leave you with homework. When you are training without the instructor, pitchers and parents should understand the basic principles of pitching.  If you have a north, south issue, it’s the release point, if you have an east, west problem, its mechanics.

 The ball is high.  Released late, usually at the front hip/leg.

The ball is low.    Released early, usually before the back hip/leg.

The release point is somewhere around the back hip/ leg.

The ball is going inside: You need to take a look at two things. 1. Is the hip coming through before or at the same time has the hand? 2. Is the arm straying away from the body? The arm needs to come before the hip and the arm circle needs to be tight, almost brushing against your body.  A phase that instructors use is during your arm circle the bicep touches the ear and forearm touches the belly.

The ball is going outside.  The shoulder/glove is flying outside of their body which is pulling the hand out. The ball goes in the direction of the hand at release.  The glove and the shoulder should be pointed at the catcher at release.

In practice, do not be afraid to change, do not be afraid to experiment and do not be afraid to fail.

Infield Practice Guide

Below is a summary of my basic infield practice guide.

Footwork to First

Short Stop
Throwing to First

Line Ground Ball-Charge the ball- glove foot forward- right foot back slightly to setup the body angle to first.
Forehand Footwork

Glove Foot in front-head down-Throwing Foot replaces glove foot. Turn hips and shoulders to first.
Backhand Footwork

Glove foot should in front-head down-take the ball toward your throwing shoulder-plant the right foot and throw. One step is the goal.

Dealing with Hops
Either cut the hop at the lowest point with your body moving forward or play the big hop by slightly giving in to the momentum of the hop. The goal is to not get caught in-between the short and long hop.
Throwing to Second
Field the ball of the throwing foot and take a pivot step with glove foot. This opens your body to second.

Feeds to Second
After the catch
– pull the ball out of the glove to show the ball-move glove out of the way-step through with your throwing foot. Remember the rule of 3. If less than 3 steps, take the out yourself.
Footwork when receiving from the pitcher
, third or first- Go to the front of the bag, square as much as possible, glove foot on the front corner of the bag step with the throwing foot to throw to first.
Footwork when receiving from 2nd
. Go the outside corner and touch with your throwing foot turn and throw.
Cover the bag at second base on bunts
-Glove foot on the inside corner of the bag, step to the ball and make the throw.
Covering the bag at second from a throw from center or right. Straddle the bag, turn your body to the play, keep your target low and let the ball get to you, do not reach for it.

Ball directly to you- Two methods
-1. secure the ball, throwing foot back, make the throw. 2. Throw to second- secure the ball, throwing foot back, glove knee down, turn the hips and throw.
Ball Hit to the glove side-
Field it off your glove foot, jump step, turn hips and make the throw. If you cannot square up, use the forehand, use your momentum to step through turning your back to the infield and then throw.
Back hand flip to short stop
if the ball is out in front. Understand your range with flip. Utilize a step through flip if the ball is toward second base; take the ball out of the glove to show your short stop the ball. If less than 3 steps take the out yourself.
Take feeds from the short stop
Glove Foot on the corner of the bag. Stay out of the runners’ lane. If two outs come across the bag to secure the catch.

Covering the bag at at second from a throw from center or left. Straddle the back, turn your body to the play, keep your target low and let the ball get to you, do not reach for it.

Protecting the line-Pivot step or cross over-head down-take the ball toward your throwing shoulder-plant the right foot and throw. One step is the goal.
Cutting the ball before it gets to the shortstop
– Crossover step-head down-drop back the throwing foot and throw.
Fielding Bunts down the third base line
-Picking the ball up with your glove-keep your front shoulder down, step and throw.
Receiving from the outfield-A throw from, second or right field setup on the front corner of the bag. When receiving from center first, pitcher, short stop, left field setup straddling the bag.

First Base

Finding the bag-Turn toward the infield, square to the base throwing to you. Wait until you see the throw is online, and then stretch.
Left Handed-Big Advantage
-Already in line with second, plant on your back foot, keep shoulder low, make the throw.
Right Handed-Ball hit directly to you in front of the bag, drop your throwing foot back, rotate quickly and throw. Bunts, circle the ball, open to the bag and throw. If the ball is not moving, bare hand the ball.

Lefty Big Advantage-Open to infield, glove close to the tag, they usually have time to straddle the bag
Right Hander: Open to the infield, setup on the front side of the base
Turn you back to the runner, setup on the front side of the bag or Open to the runner, middle of the bag. You will have to practice both methods with your 1st basemen to find out what works best.


March 2013


Watley Clinic

We had 68 participants. The clinic lost about $300 from last minute refunds due to illness of participants but this was still an outstanding event. Natasha thought that our accommodations and facilities were top notch. She would love to come back in the future. We apologize for cutting the clinic a little short but we had little to no choice given her flight arrangements. Next year, we will negotiate a longer stay.


Field Maintenance|Coaches Reminder|Practices-

Maintenance Day at Crist Field will be Saturday, March 23 at 9:00.  Please do what you can to help. Even though your team may not practice at Crist as part of your regular schedule, other teams being there allow you to be on the field to which you are scheduled.

If any of you have any equipment (4 wheelers, tractors, tractors with front end loaders, etc.) that you can bring to help reduce the amount of manual labor it is much appreciated.


Bull Roast-

Attendance was up about 10% this year and the average person spent $20. Last year the average person spent $30 resulting in lower profits this year but still made approximately 6k. Thank all involved for helping.


Free Skills Clinic

Our annual Skills Clinic will be held on Saturday, May 11th at Crist Fields.  The clinic is free to the York County League.  No BH’s may register but we may ask players to help. Max 40 Participants.



All dues should be paid or individuals should be on a payment plan that has been approved by the Treasurer and the Board.  Failure to have dues paid current may result in players being prohibited from participating in team and organizational activities including practices and tournaments.


Picture Day-

Saturday March 23rd at Crist Fields for 10 and 12u teams.  If an older team is available you may take your pictures on this day.



We are adding a new feature on our website, E-tickets for future events. Estimated cost is $300 which is cheap b/c the most of the code is being written in house.



Our position remains the same, we do not run fundraisers outside Joe Corbi’s, Bull Roast and Crab Feast. If a team decided to do a fundraiser, it is independent of the Ball Hawk Organization. Past polls show that the majority of people prefer to pay a little more money than participate in a fundraiser.


Please visit our website frequently to learn of new updates, the results of our tournaments, etc.  Go Ball Hawks!!

July 2012

 A year in review

Third Annual YCJGSL Clinic – The free clinic hosted by the Ball Hawks took place on April 28.  Over 50 girls attended at the age groups 10U through 14U.  The event filled within two weeks of posting without advertisement outside of our website (which is averaging about one thousand hits per month).  We were impressed with the talent of the girls who attended.  

Diamond Queens Tournaments – Crist Fields – Our first Diamond Queens (USSSA) tournament took place on May 5-6.  This was a 10U only event, as 12U did not have enough teams to be able to hold a tournament.  We had a total of 6 10U teams.  Our 14u tournament on May 19-20 attracted 12 teams.  The profit generated was distributed equally between the 3 14u teams.  A special thanks to Mark Jones and Tony Beam who went above and beyond to make this an awesome event.

Bull Roast – Our Bull Roast was held on March 17th and we are pleased to announce that we had a record attendance.  The proceeds from the Bull Roast have yet to be allocated by the board.  We are looking at ways to best improve the organization through things such as field acquisition, indoor facility upgrades, additional tournaments, a better player appreciation picnic, etc.  A special thanks to Sheri Eckenrode for making the event a success.  Also thank you to all who participated in the event and especially those who volunteered their time to help. 

Board Membership – Sheri Eckenrode’s term as secretary and event coordinator will expire in August. The Board has selected Dana Glover as our new secretary and event coordinator.

Player Appreciation Party Our annual player appreciation party will take place at Lincoln Way Pool on August 10, 2012 from 7p-10p.  The address is 4321 Zimmerman Dr. York, 17408. We are asking each team to bring something to contribute to party.

2013 Tryouts – Tryouts for the 2013 season will be held on Saturday, August 11th and on Sunday, August 12th. On Saturday, 10u-10:00a – 12:00p, 12u-12:30p-2:30p. On Sunday, 14u-1:30p-3:30p, 16u-18u-4:00p-6:00p. Current Ball Hawk players will not need to tryout.  All prospective participants must register through our registration website. http://register.paballhawks.org/grid.php) Current players will be evaluated over the course of the tournament season by the coaching staff from their respective teams to determine placement for next year.  Please remember to pursue potential sponsors for our organizations.  50% of the money from sponsors you bring in goes towards your dues.

Crab FeastWe are hosting our first annual crab feast at the New Oxford Social and Athletic club (same location as the Bull Roast) on Sept 22, 2012 from 1p-5p. The location of the event is 200 W Golden Ln, New Oxford, PA 17350. We will distribute tickets to the coaches very soon. You can also buy a ticket on our website. The cost of each ticket will be $30.00. The menu includes, all you can eat crabs, chicken, corn, pasta and drinks. Also, you may BYOB.

Life Skills

When it comes to teaching life skills, sports is one of the best resources available.  During our team practices, we stress the importance of communication, discipline and to be un-selfish. Put the team goals first. Learn to have desires beyond themselves. Most of my athletes will tell you that I stress the importance of goals. Without goals, we have no direction.  When I was a contractor, I worked with companies on improving their operations. I helped in areas of communication, hiring, and training. One thing I realized when I hired student athletes, they understood the concept of personal responsibility, how to communicate with others in a positive manner and they always had a competitive fire.

 Jeff Shockey is my head coach for our 18u showcase team. We both look for teachable moments for our young athletes. He shared a touching story with me that I would like to share with you.

 Recently, I attended a memorial service for a great guy who was my oldest daughter’s travel softball coach for some of the best, most fun and successful years of her softball career.  The service celebrating Jim Schmidt’s life was very moving.  It was a combination of happy memories and sadness.  It is difficult to understand why this terrific person has been taken from us at such a young age.  As I looked around at all the young female athletes who were wearing team jerseys to honor Jim, I suddenly realized that Jim’s influence will live forever.   Jim taught his players how to set goals, how to be a gracious winner and loser, how to put your team in front of yourself, how to take responsibility for your actions, how to move forward after making a mistake, the importance of “giving 100%, 100% of the time” and how to have fun through it all.  These “life skills” that will benefit these ladies forever and make them winners in everything they do.

 Parents, coaches and fans must never lose sight of the fact that learning “life skills” thru competitive softball is much more important than winning games or having the best stats.  Obtaining success in sports is a journey, requiring hard work, dedication and a positive attitude.  These skills also lead to success in life.  We must make sure players learn from every good and bad event they face while playing softball.  Success thru hard work, happiness and fulfillment are the traits of a real champion.

 As the pastor mentioned in his closing prayer, heaven will have a much better softball team now that Coach Jim has arrived!!!

Why do people criticize others in a negative way?

In my observation of people that are always negative is that they are generally unhappy, have low self-esteem, and jealous of the person that they are criticizing. I decided to write this blog when I overheard a parent criticize a coach to another parent. That parent claimed that “he only takes time with the kids he likes and he could do a lot more then what he is doing at practice”.  I thought that comment should be investigated so I took a deeper look into the situation. My observation was that this coach wasn’t taking time with all the girls but it was no fault of his own. This coach has 12 players and only one assistant coach. It wasn’t possible for him to take a lot of individual time with each player. He ran the drills as a team because he didn’t have the personnel to have multiple drill stations.  I thought the coach did a good job. The most interesting part of my observation came at the end of practice. The coach’s hands were full with nets and a bucket balls. He had more supplies to carry out but not one parent stayed to help the coach put the supplies away. One of the first parents to leave was the one doing the criticizing. It’s obvious that the coach needs help but instead of trying to make the situation better by helping or at least asking to help, this Debbie Downer would rather just complain about the situation.

There are several reasons why people criticize others. It could be that they are sincere and want to help. This is considered constructive criticism. This type of criticism is good. You should absorb it and improve from it. On the other hand, you have people that want you to fail; they don’t want people to think that you’re doing something better then what they could do. The smart people that are “haters” feel the latter. Many smart “haters” need ongoing approval that they are smart. When they criticize someone, it’s a quick way for them to get instant gratification. For example, have you ever presented an idea at work to only have someone tear it apart with a lot of “what ifs” and hypothetical scenario’s that have little to no chance of happening?  The person that was tearing the idea apart was getting his instant gratification by showing the audience his intelligence or lack thereof.

Don’t let these people hold you back. If you have an idea or want to pursue a venture, understand that you will always encounter people that are criticizing your actions. Don’t try to persuade them and don’t let them discourage you. I always say, it’s easy to judge me when you’re in recliner, eating chips, wondering who the next American Idol is while I am out busting my butt to achieve something.

December 2011


PA Ball Hawks




Jessica Mendoza Clinic – The Jessica Mendoza clinic that had been scheduled for January 7th has been moved to January 8th due to a commitment from ESPN that arose for her.   Exclusive registration for Ball Hawk players will be open until Monday, December 5th.  At that time, Ball Hawk players may still register but registration will be open to rec leagues in south central Pennsylvania and northern Maryland.  Please register as soon as possible if interested.

Dues Reminder – Just a reminder that the second installment of the dues payment was due November 1st.  Our final installment will be due March 1st.  Players will not be eligible for participation if dues are not current.

Bull Roast – The date for the annual Bull Roast has been set for Saturday, March 17th. Our goal is to make this our most successful yet.  We are also seeking volunteers to serve on the Bull Roast committee to assist Sheri Eckenrode with the planning and share any ideas you may have.  If you are interested please contact Sheri.  Her contact information can be found on our website.  Please volunteer if you are able.

Sponsorship Reminder – Please remember to pursue potential sponsors for our organizations.  50% of the money from sponsors you bring in goes towards your dues.

Board Membership – We are seeking applicants to become members of the board.  Interested individuals should apply on our website. Go the forms section and click on Board Member Application.

Fall Recap – Our fall seasons have ended with great amounts of success with our teams.  Please visit our Team Photos tab to review our fall success.  If you have a photo from a gold, silver, or bronze finish that needs to be added please forward to Howie with a caption detailing the date, tournament name, and any other brief summary.

Where does the money go?

Our method of budgeting has proved to be successful which is why some organizations have modeled their budget after ours. We pride ourselves in being the best value for your dollar. Other organizations that provide our level of structure and stability cost much more. Some “discount” organizations cost less but you get exactly what you pay for which is limited structure, limited stability and limited talent.


Team Budget $70 # players # tourneys Budgeted
Team Insurance $2 12 10 $240
Emergency Fund $2 12 10 $240
Team Registrations $3 12 10 $360
Scrimmages & Misc $3 12 10 $360
Team Supplies $5 12 10 $600
Winter Training $5 12 10 $600
Organizational Expenses $5 12 10 $600
Tournaments $45 12 10 $5400


For a budget to be successful, we must have the following components. First, we must give every dollar a name before the month begins, Second; we must monitor the budget, make adjustments when necessary. Our revenue maybe fixed but our budget is not comprised of fixed slices of pie. Some slices are bigger than others are. For a household budget, it may take several months to make your plan work for you. For an organization, it may take much longer. The third component maybe the hardest, we must follow the plan. We must be diligent and we must have discipline in order to prosper.

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